How To Keep the Kids Busy This Summer:
A Photographic Journey
It’s time. Time to bust boredom. Here’s how!
1. Let your kids make their own meals like oven-baked pizza. Mine love eating out of muffin tins!
2. Explore your city’s outdoor art.
3. Get a bug box and adopt some free pets from your garden (think caterpillars, snails, tadpoles, baby birds). Research what they eat, what plants they like to live on, and create a habitat.
4. Go fishing!
5. My kids love when I set up the train table. Mix it up by taking the train set outside. You can make it much bigger than when you’re restricted to the train table. Warning: grown adults in the neighborhood may join in and test their engineering skills!
6. Visit a local farm or petting zoo. See if the library is hosting the petting zoo this summer.
7. Let the kids walk the dogs (unless they’re unmanageable on a leash). If you don’t have a dog, ask your neighbors if you can borrow theirs.
8. Take a day trip to the beach. If it’s too far of a drive for one day, consider camping out overnight to save on hotel fees. Collect hermit crabs and have a hermit crab race. Bet on the winner. If you can, stay through sunset. We love the beach in the evening! Oh, and be sure to bring snacks for the sea gulls. They like Cheez-Its.
9. Swim, swim, swim. The little guys love to have our slide in the baby pool. For the older kids, Intex makes very affordable pools for your backyard. They range in price from $60-$400. You can get the kind with an inflatable ring or one with metal posts. They all come with pumps and filters, too! No space? Ask your neighbors if you can borrow theirs!
Eventually, your kids will get bored in the pool. At that point, throw a watermelon covered in Vaseline into the pool! When that loses its charm, visit a local water park. My in-laws in Maryland have this really cool indoor water park near them. Many little splash pads in public parks are free to the public. Maybe there’s something like that near you!
10. Let your kids play in the mud. When they’re done, hose them off and resume #9.
11. Grow something together.
12. If you have a hot tub, lower the temperature and use it as a swimming pool for a change of scenery. If not, buckets work almost as well (for the kids at least).
13. Play board games. Boggle and Scrabble are great for pre-readers learning their letters and sounds all the way up to adults. Modify the rules or play on teams to help the younger kids out. I am amazed at my 5-year-old’s strategies when it comes to playing Chess. I need to bring my A-game when I play him!
14. Bake to celebrate holidays, big and small. Let the kids lick the beaters (I’m not scared of a little Salmonella) and do the frosting and sprinkles, regardless of what it looks like in the end. When they get old enough, let them do the “grown up parts” like cracking the eggs. My daughter loves that she’s the only one allowed to crack the eggs at this point!
16. Swing! I made the rope swing on the left for $8 and hung it from a little crepe myrtle in our front yard. You don’t need much time, talent, money, or space to have a rope swing.
17. Join summer sports leagues in your neighborhood.
19. Get out the blocks and Legos. Build stuff.
20. Find some good climbing trees.
21. Eat lots and lots of snowballs.
22. Go to the zoo and let the kids lead the way with maps. Spend time at the smaller exhibits and activities that you may normally rush past to get to the bigger attractions. My kids could spend hours at the fossil dig!
23. Explore the different parks your city has to offer. Make special note of the ones with shade and water features.
24. Go to the park and feed the ducks (or really aggressive geese).
25. Have story time. Mix it up by inviting over a special guest to read to the kids and then do an activity related to the book. It could be as simple as drawing a picture of their favorite character.
26. Find fountains and get in them, even if it’s frowned upon. I know of 2 fountains in New Orleans that you can get in. One is downtown and the other is in the Amusement Park in City Park. Super duper fun!
27. Build a fort, inside or outside. We made this one using 2 soccer goals, a king size flat sheet, and a piece of particle board!
28. Let the little ones play in the sink. However, if you have an undermount sink, make sure it’s securely attached to the bottom of the counters and not just glued on. You have been warned.
29. Dollhouses aren’t just for girls!
30. Get a tub of perler beads. You put them in a pattern (or not), place a piece of wax paper over the design, iron it, and voila! My 6-year-old can spend an hour on them and comes up with the most interesting patterns. My 5-year-old, however, gets frustrated because his fine motor skills and creativity aren’t as sophisticated as his older sisters yet. Every time we play with them, though, he gets more confident.
32. Bath tubs aren’t just for bathing. My kids get in the tub frequently just to have some indoor splash time. Get some water beads and shaving cream. Give the kids colanders, cups, and Popsicle sticks. They can sift out the water beads with the colander and “shave” with the Popsicle sticks.
33. Painting doesn’t have to be a big deal. If you don’t like the mess, take it outside and hose off the area when they’re finished. Mix it up by taking vegetables, cutting them in half, and using them as stamps. Pour paint into ice cube trays to keep spills to a minimum. Be sure to display their art work in a prominent place.
34. Encourage your kids to create a play or act out their favorite movie. Invite the neighborhood kids over to be the audience. You can also make your own hallway puppet theater using a piece of fabric and a tension rod.
35. Paint your kids’ faces for no particular reason. Let them paint each others’ faces, too!
36. Have a dance party.
37. Let the kids set the table with their tea set. If they’re old enough, make a big fuss over letting them use real plates and cups. They can invite their friends (real, stuffed, and imaginary) to tea. Give them raisins and carrots (and any food you want to encourage them to eat) to put on the plates. I get my kids to eat more veggies this way than any other! If you don’t mind a little spillage, put water in the tea pot.
38. Give them napkin rings and see what they come up with. Seriously. My 6-year-old loves playing with napkin rings. She ends up getting out her micro toys like Littlest Pet Shop and coming up with all sorts of uses for the rings! I believe they are being used a pet cages below.
39. Go ahead and give them screen time. They like it. Mommy likes it.
40. There are horse stables all around, even in urban areas. Call the stables and see if your kids can visit the horses. They may even be allowed to feed or brush them. We love visiting the stables in New Orleans’ City Park, and have never called ahead or asked for permission!
41. Take a field trip to the pet store with the understanding that you’re only going to visit the pets. Petco has fish, ferrets, birds, hamsters, guinea pigs, and cats. And since customers can bring their pets inside, we often get to play with some really cute dogs.
If you’re in my neighborhood, Jefferson Feed and Seed has a great variety of animals. The only time I get my kids to leave without a scene is when they start to get hungry. Otherwise, we could stay there for hours. We also like Double M on West Esplanade to play with the puppies.
42. Find a levee and run, roll, or sled down it on cardboard boxes. If you’re not fortunate enough to have levees in your area, any old hill will do. Just watch out for the ants!
43. Let your kids create their own parade. We like to get out the drums, maracas, stuffed animals, wagons, and little brothers for our parades. Beads are optional (actually discouraged).
44. Go to the Minor League baseball games in your area. They’re usually really cheap (and free tickets are pretty easy to come by, too), have great give-aways, and are very kid friendly.
45. Go on a nature walk. Bring lots of water as well as binoculars and cameras for the kids. Tell them to stay quiet so as to not scare the animals. My kids get such a thrill when they find critters – as small as a lady bugs and as big as an alligator! They even silently squeal when a bird flies by. Birds fly by our house all day long, but when they’re actively looking for them out “in nature,” it’s much more exciting.
47. Have costumes on hand every day. I let my kids dress up in whatever they want and if they want to wear it out in public, all the better. I feel like it brightens up the lives of those around us!
48. Don’t throw away cardboard boxes unless they’ve been played with, in, or on. Sleeping grandfather on duty is a bonus.
49. Work on age-appropriate puzzles.
50. Take your kids to play at Pottery Barn Kids (not kidding). They have really cool toys that you can “try out” and while you’re there you can pretend that it’s what your house actually looks like.
51. This is a big one. It takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it. Are you ready? Have a week-long camp with your friends and their kids. Divide the kids up into groups by age and have Moms take a group and do a planned activity with them. My girlfriends and I did this two summers ago and it was amazing. There were so many of us that we took over 3 houses each day. We were exhausted by the end, but it cost us next to nothing, we got to be with one another, and the kids had a blast!
52. DIY slip-n-slide. Get a sheet of visqueen or a large drop cloth and secure in place. (We used tent pegs.) Turn on hose. Slide. Repeat. A hill and some shade makes it even better. And a little dish soap makes it epic!
53. Make easy tye-dye shirts with Sharpie markers!
54. Make a bubble using visqueen, duct tape, and a fan. So. much. fun. It got hot, though, so we filled it with water and balls!
Sound too time consuming? How about this instead?
55. Make Gak! It keeps for a long time in the refrigerator.
56. Have a lemonade stand. Do something fun for the kids with the profit or donate it to a favorite charity like Kid Power-DC! The best lemon, sugar, water ratio we’ve found is 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of lemon juice, and a half gallon of water. Enjoy!
57. Play in the rain.
58. Go roller skating.
59. Have a camp out at your house. Roast marshmallows then set up sleeping bags in your living room or in your back yard in a tent. Don’t forget the flash lights!
60. Join a play group that is geared toward getting Moms together.
61. Have friends over for a movie night. Pop some popcorn, get out the sleeping bags and comfy pillows, and let the kids cuddle together. While the movie is playing, parents can have a happy hour in the front yard or kitchen. Tell the big kids you’re not going to watch the movie with them so you can keep the baby out of their way.
62. Play in a sand box. Don’t have one? Build it! I have no skills and I made this easily one morning using 4x4s, brackets, and a tarp.
63. Keep the chalk out. But only in places where you don’t mind chalk (like the carport).
64. Keep the battery for your ride-on toys charged. The kids love these things, but I have a tendency to forget to recharge the batteries. In fact, I’m going to charge mine right now!
65. Do you have white flowers in your garden? Can you buy some? Put them in colored water and see what happens! (Look at the edges of the petals.)
That should get you through the first 3 or 4 days of summer, right? What’s next? Oh yeah. A good nap.